Monday 13 May 2019

Peru and our first foray into South America- Part 1

If Costa Rica and Peru are even a little bit representative of Latin America, I see a long love affair looming! So colourful, geographically diverse, beautiful and friendly! We choose Peru for our first South American foray for the simple reason that it doesn't require a visa for Indian citizens so long as you have a US or Schengen visa. Also, we wanted to see what the big fuss around Machu Picchu, was all about.

Now Peru, like most big countries, is a 10-15 day trip. I know people fly in to see Cusco and Machu Picchu (MP) and fly out, but that's a bit like seeing Delhi and Agra and pretending that's all there is to India. A nice taster and appetizer, but not the whole meal! The kids had the week off for spring break, and with the weekend on either side, we would have 9 days. Given the time taken to travel (with flights and layovers, we were losing a day on each side), I decided to pull them out from school for 2 days so that we would have 9 days in-country.

As it turned out, both kids went down with the flu one after another just the week before our departure and ended up missing the entire week of school. It was exhausting running up and down the stairs and to the doctor and pharmacy, dealing with fever, cold, pain and vomit for 2 kids, maniacally disinfecting all common surfaces and areas and praying that S and I don't catch the flu. Fortunately, since the kids had had their flu shots in the fall, this infection was not as bad as it could have been, and they were recovered well in time for our trip.

We flew to Lima on Copa Airlines via Panama city. We left at 10 am EST and reached Lima at 7.30 pm CST (Peru just being an hour behind DC time). Annoyingly, after such a long flight, we couldn't find our pickup/driver and after waiting for 30 minutes, decided to take an airport taxi to our hotel in Lima, where we had dinner and called it a night.

The next day, dawned bright and sunny. I had planned a self-guided walk along the cliff overlooking the Pacific ocean, and that occupied a couple of hours after breakfast. It was supposed to be a longish walk, but we had to cut it short because of the heat. I had packed for fall weather, with full sleeved tops and pants, and the warm weather caught me unawares. Poor Y kept asking me - "Why didn't you pack SUMMER clothes? I am so hot!!!"

The ocean views were pretty, and the parks were clean and crowded with fitness enthusiasts (it was nice to see a large group of women boxers).

The cliff path with a view of the Miraflores lighthouse

Relaxing at the "Love Park" 

After a quick lunch at a pizzeria where they served us with amazing veg pizza, we were off to a walking city tour led by Urban Adventures. We were the only people on the tour so it became a private walking tour. Our guide Paola led us through a food market, where we got to see and taste many of Peru's distinctive fruits and vegetables.

Chrimoya, a sweet and fleshy fruit

Granadilla, from the passion fruit family

Walking through the market 

A stop for gelato!

I had the lucuma gelato, which was a bit like tutti frooti and very yummy 
Some of the other Peruvian favourites, were toasted and salted corn (yummy!) and Inka Kola..and of course, the national drink, Pisco sour (alcohol content between 38% and 48% so definitely not my thing).

A crowded bus drive brought us to the Plaza de Armas, the main square in Lima, filled with gorgeous buildings- the Presidential Palace, the Basilica of San Pedro, the Archbishop's Palace etc.

We had a hard time getting back to the hotel. Apparently, Friday night traffic is not a problem only in Bangalore! It took ages to find a cab and we got caught in an epic traffic jam before being dropped at our hotel, settling in for an early night before our flight to Cusco the next morning.

Cusco (or Cuzco, Qusqu being the Quechua spelling) was the capital of the Incan kingdom for about 3 centuries until the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the 16th century. A gorgeous city with the ubiquitous Plaza de Armas, it took our breath away, quite literally (as it's the same altitude as Leh, around 3400 m above sea level!). 
Very few of the original Incan or pre-Incan buildings remain as the Spanish invaders razed everything to the ground. The pre-colonial buildings that remain are in ruins, some partly restored, a mute and sad testament to the ingenuity and technology of the Andean kingdoms that were native to the Sacred Valley (or Valle Sagrada). 

The kids and I missed the city tour as Y and I got a touch of altitude sickness and we stayed put at our hotel drinking copious amounts of coca leaves tea and staying hydrated. But we were fine the next day, which was good because the next 72 hours were super hectic as we whizzed through the Sacred Valley, covering Pisaq, Ollayantaytambo, Chinchero, and Machu Picchu, marvelling at the Anden civilization's mastery of astronomy, architecture, engineering, agricultural techniques and of course the sophisticated art and craft forms.  

I didn't quite know what to expect at Machu Picchu. You know the feeling when you've seen a place and read about it innumerable times? One is always anxious whether the real thing will live up to its promise. When we climbed up to the caretaker's hut, I almost let out a gasp. There it was! The "classic" pic of Machu Picchu, seen countless times in magazines and travel blogs. If possible, even more stunning in reality (though S went back the next morning and brought back more outstanding photos of the citadel in the mist and rain). 

But I go too fast. The train ride to Aguas Calientes (the base to pick up buses for Machu Picchu) is itself beautiful. The panoramic windows of the train allow for mostly unrestricted views, over a landscape of gushing water and high mountains, green (in April) with foliage.

The rest, contd in Part 2.


  1. Oh my, breathtaking pics of the Maccha Pichu. Heard so much about this place. Lovely to read your travelogue and also to see you blog again.

  2. lovely photos.
    excellent tips for travel. thanks


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